Page last updated at 14:04 GMT, Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Health workers in pay protest

protest placard
The workers said emergency cover would be maintained

Hundreds of health service workers are holding protests outside Northern Ireland hospitals in a dispute over pay.

They include paramedics, school nurses and maintenance staff who are angry at a below-inflation pay deal offered by the government.

They are working to rule but insist emergency cover is being maintained.

The workers' union, Unite, described the offer as a "derisory three-year pay deal".

The union said the deal would work out at a 2.5% increase per year.

Unite's Senior Regional Industrial Organiser Albert Mills said their members were "furious" at the government deal.

"Unite members in Northern Ireland have voted for strike action.

"But they feel they need to put a warning shot across the bows of Health Minister's Michael McGimpsey department. We are willing to talk, but he seems unable or unwilling to do so," he said.

"This action will have no affect on patient care at the moment. Unite members intend to strike in January if Mr McGimpsey does not take up our offer of meaningful talks."

The work-to-rule protest includes a ban on non-essential paperwork, email exchanges, attendance and meetings and telephone calls.

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